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Philanthropy, Crisis Response, and Public Administration

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One of the best ways to respond to civic crises is through philanthropy. Charitable giving is an important part of addressing long-standing societal challenges that are often magnified during dire times. According to the Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy, Americans donated over $427 billion in 2018, illustrating the impact of giving on critical causes such as education, healthcare, public safety, and human services. But what should we do when a crisis forces us to rethink how we approach philanthropy?

Dealing With the Crisis

Right now, during the COVID-19 global pandemic, there is an unprecedented need for immediate response. What makes this situation especially unique is the direct impact it has on direct service capacity of nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses. Social distancing has created challenges in organizing philanthropic outreach efforts, prompting significant shifts in charitable giving. While we are thankful to have many individuals qualified in health and wellness management, offering support through means like food drives and mental health check-ins, these efforts have become overwhelmed with constraints, increased need, and urgency. Key giving priorities that have emerged include:

  • Supporting basic needs, such as adequate food and housing
  • Immediate healthcare services
  • Economic security in response to unemployment and lost wages
  • Education and technology resources for students and families
  • Personal Protective Equipment for essential and medical workers
  • Increased medical research capacity

Looking Forward As We Respond Today

In the face of the far-reaching impact of this crisis, philanthropy is seeing changes in practice and a host of new norms. Some trends that have emerged include accelerated timelines for major fundraising initiatives and foundation grant proposals. We've seen foundations more aggressively collaborate in leveraging resources, and changes in processes start to take shape. Restrictions and barriers for nonprofits and individuals have been loosened, and many grant management requirements have been removed to keep organizations focused on urgent community needs. However, large-scale crises do not diminish other causes that still need attention, and as crisis aid is distributed, it can create an imbalance in available resources. From a public administration standpoint, this should be addressed strategically with an eye for supporting the spectrum of response, recovery, and long-term resilience.

While these times are especially trying, wide-scale crises are something those in public administration need to stay mindful of as they force us to think about our responsiveness to civic needs. The current COVID-19 pandemic provides a case study on how individual donors and charitable foundations can work with government, private business, and other partners and create meaningful partnerships to address both long- and short-term needs. For funding organizations and other civic partners, this time highlights the importance of developing capacity for future crises as well as rethinking long term funding strategies. Tulane School of Professional Advancement is dedicated to giving students the tools and education they need to be effective leaders in the public administration sector. Learn more about the Master of Public Administration program to get started on your path to helping others.

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